Police begin spot checks on French restaurants for Covid pass checks

It comes after a week-long ‘learning period’. Rule breakers risk being fined

18 August 2021

Police can scan health passes and carry out identity checks to make sure people are not showing fraudulent passes Pic: BreizhAtao / Shutterstock

By Joanna York

Police have this week begun spot checks to ensure that venues including restaurants, bars and cinemas are checking visitors’ health passes before they enter.

This comes after a week-long ‘learning period’ for staff and customers to get used to the rules. 

Since Monday, August 16, police can scan health passes themselves and carry out identity checks on customers to make sure that they are not presenting fraudulent passes. 

People without a health pass will be asked to leave the venue they are trying to enter, and risk a fine of €135. This rises to €1,500 for repeat offenders.

Owners of establishments that are found to not be checking health passes risk a €9,000 fine and administrative closure, and a year in prison for repeat offenders.

Customers surprised by police checks

Cinema goers were surprised to be greeted by police officers near Dijon on Monday night (August 16).

“I didn’t expect to see them at the doors. I was a bit surprised, and was asking myself why they were here,” one told France Info.

Customers at a nearby restaurant were also surprised, initially. “At first I thought something must be wrong, then I realised they were here to check health passes,” one said.

Restaurant manager Christophe Petit told France Info his restaurant had already been subject to informal checks since the health pass rules were introduced, but Monday evening was the first time that identity checks had been carried out.

He said the restaurant would not risk breaking the rules. “We have respected the rules in place since the beginning of the health crisis,” he said. “We apply them as we’re told to.”

Waiter hit by customers who did not accept new checks

Some restaurants have had more difficulties enforcing the rules.

In Saintes, Charente-Maritime, a customer hit a waiter who asked him for his pass on August 9.

Waiter, Mathias Coutant, 28, said the customer was a regular. He told Sud Ouest: “He told me he had the paper in his pocket, and I asked him to show me.

“I have learned to be calm in all situations, but he wanted to make a spectacle of it. I turned around and realised that he was getting up off his chair.

“Just as I was about to ask him to leave, I felt a pain in my jaw.”

Mr Coutant has not pressed charges against the customer.

The manager of the restaurant, Olivier Domain, is worried about how to apply the rules now that the tolerance period is coming to an end.

“People have had enough and they take it out on the person in front of them. We need an extra person who is just doing health pass checks, but we can’t do it,” he said.Restaurants turn to takeaways

In Auron, Alpes-Maritimes, one restaurant has found a way to evade the rules altogether.

The manager of Au Refuge told Nice Matin he has bought ten camping tables – which he calls “anti-pass tables” – for customers to set up nearby.

He said: “The idea came to me last winter when we were closed except for take-away meals. 

“Anyone who doesn’t have a QR code can get one of our take-away meals and eat a little further away or even have a picnic in the countryside.”

Meanwhile a pizzeria in Hérault has stopped letting customers in altogether after reopening in July.

“We decided to stop when the pass was introduced,” the owner of the restaurant near Valras-Plage told France Bleu, which now only offers takeaway meals.

The owner said: “[checking the pass] goes against my ideas. I refuse to be part of a system of permanently checking people. It’s impossible to manage.”

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